October 31, 2006
Using Electronic Song Signatures to Remove Infringing Material
MySpace.com will use "audio fingerprinting" technology to block users from uploading copyright music to the social networking site, the company said Monday.
MySpace, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., said it will review all music files uploaded by community members to their online profiles. The files will be run through a music database from Gracenote Inc.
"MySpace is staunchly committed to protecting artists' rights, whether those artists are on major labels or are independent acts," said Chris DeWolfe, MySpace chief executive and co-founder.
October 30, 2006
Link: Baghdad Burning.
There are Iraqi women who have not shed their black mourning robes since 2003 because each time the end of the proper mourning period comes around, some other relative dies and the countdown begins once again.
October 27, 2006
Supreme Court to Review Microsoft-AT&T Patent Dispute
By MARK H. ANDERSON WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday said it will use a dispute between Microsoft Corp. and AT&T Inc. to clarify when patent infringement damages can apply to overseas product sales.
The two companies have been at odds over Microsoft digital speech compression code in its Windows operating software that AT&T claims violates patents it owns. Following federal court rulings that went against Microsoft, the companies reached an undisclosed settlement that allowed the overseas damages question to be appealed.
Microsoft contends that U.S. patent law doesn't apply to foreign sales of software containing the code in question. The Supreme Court received the software giant's appeal in February 2006 but asked the federal government to weigh in on the issue.
In a brief filed in late September, U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement said lower courts were wrong to extend patent infringement damages to foreign sales.
"The latter holding .. improperly extends U.S. patent law to foreign markets and puts U.S. software companies at a competitive disadvantage," Mr. Clement said, adding that the legal error "has substantial practical importance."
Mr. Clement urged the Supreme Court to overturn holdings by the Federal U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a special appeals court for patent law, among other issues.
The lawsuit began when AT&T sued Microsoft, alleging that recorded speech capabilities included with Windows software infringed on its patents. The company claimed Microsoft was using the technology in speech, video conferencing and instant-messaging programs.
A U.S. District Court ruled for AT&T and said Microsoft was liable for both U.S. and foreign Windows sales. In July 2005, the Federal Circuit affirmed that ruling.
Microsoft, in its appeal, said the legal question was one of "vital importance to the U.S. software industry" that could expose companies to "potentially crippling liability" by expanding damages to overseas business. AT&T, in its own brief, argued the case's outcome "appropriately focuses on the activities of Microsoft as a domestic supplier."
Oral arguments will be held in early 2007. Chief Justice John Roberts, who holds investments in Microsoft stock, recused himself from the appeal. (Microsoft v. AT&T)
This will be a very important case and it pits two patent giants against each other.
It's unfortunate that we will not have the benefit of Chief Justice Roberts' views on this complicated issue. Perhaps Justices can take steps to move their investments into broad index funds rather than individual stocks or specific sectors of the economy.
October 26, 2006
Madonna and Child
Link: Malawi man now says Madonna can adopt his son - CNN.com.
This is just heartbreaking. Imagine the circumstances that might lead you to conclude that giving up your son is the right thing to do--circumstances such as the apparent fact that all your other children have died. Here's the simple logic the father faces:
David stays and grows up the son of a destitute farmer in Malawi: He may well not survive into adulthood.
David is adopted by generous and wealthy Western superstar: He will likely have a long and healthy life, in addition to other opportunities only dreamed of in Malawi.
If Madonna gives David back, he will end up like his siblings -- dead -- Banda said.
"Madonna, whatever is happening, maybe it's because you are famous, that's why all this is happening," Banda said." Please be strong and don't give up the fight. My David will be a good son to you."
Madonna told Oprah Winfrey this week that her celebrity status did not work to her advantage.
"I assure you, it doesn't matter who you are or how much money you have, nothing goes fast in
," Madonna said, according to oprah.com. "There are no adoption laws in
. And I was warned by my social worker that because there were no known laws in
, they were more or less going to have to make them up as we went along."
Banda, an illiterate, 32-year-old vegetable farmer, on Sunday told the media through a translator that he didn't realize that Madonna and Ritchie would have custody "forever."
But Banda has since said he favors the adoption, and his reversal has caused a media barrage in this tiny country in southeast
Banda, who has moved in with a sister to avoid the massive scrutiny, became defensive when CNN asked if
officials forced him to change his story.
"No one in the government has forced me to say anything. This is my doing," he said. "I gave my son, David, to Madonna with all my heart, and what is happening does not reflect the truth of the matter. I gave David away and he now belongs to Madonna."
Last week Penson Kilembe, director of the
agency that handles adoptions, told The Christian Science Monitor that adoption would be just.
"Child adoption is also a rights issue, and these NGOs do not seem to understand that as a government we have both a moral and ethical obligation to mitigate the plight of children. Madonna has set a precedent worth emulating," he told the publication.
Banda said he would tell court officials that "that what we agreed with Madonna stands."
Banda insisted he hasn't profited from the adoption and he doesn't want any money. He said he just wants what is best for his son. Banda does hope that his boy grows up to be a healthy and happy.
Exxon Mobil Posts Second Largest Profits Ever
Second to what? Only to itself, last year.
Oil industry giant Exxon Mobil Corp. exceeded analyst expectations today by announcing that its third-quarter earnings shot up to $10.5 billion -- the second-largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company. The company's stock briefly hit an all-time record after the announcement.
...Exxon Mobil, the world's biggest public oil company, is no stranger to record profits. The Irving, Texas-based oil behemoth posted the largest ever quarterly profit for a publicly traded U.S. company in the fourth quarter of last year -- $10.71 billion.
...Exxon's revenue for the quarter was greater than the annual GDP of some major oil producing nations, including the United Arab Emirates -- $98.1 billion -- and Kuwait -- $52.76 billion -- according to statistics compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Vice President of Torture Cheney: Complaints Over Waterboarding "Silly"
Cheney was responding to a radio interviewer from North Dakota station WDAY who asked whether water boarding, which involves simulated drowning, was a "no-brainer" if the information it yielded would save American lives. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney replied.
Asked in the radio interview whether he would agree that the debate over terrorist interrogations and water boarding was "a little silly", Cheney responded: "I do agree".
"I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation," he said.
The article also notes:
"[It's] a direct affront to the primary authors of the Military Commission Act in the Senate — John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner — all of whom have publicly stated that the legislation signed by the president last week makes water boarding a war crime," said Jennifer Daskal, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "This is Cheney ignoring the consensus of his own Pentagon," she said, referring to comments by senior officials that harsh interrogation techniques do not produce reliable intelligence.
October 24, 2006
Chile Seeks to Become Leading Latin American Services Outsourcer
Chile views itself as a potential IT outsourcing tiger, and while it has been working hard to convince U.S. companies of its outsourcing expertise, it may have found a surprising supporter -- India's outsourcing giant Tata Consulting Services (TCS.)
"TCS likes Chile because we are in the same time zone as the U.S.," said Constanza Donoso, a representative of the Chilean Economic Development Agency, in a brief interview. "Tata provides financial services to U.S. customers from Chile."
The Latin American country with a population of 16 million is mounting an aggressive campaign to attract more high tech customers. Many U.S. operations have already established business beachheads in the country.
The new drive, said Donoso, comes from the country's new President Michelle Bachelet, who has pledged that Chile will increase its research and development spending by 50 percent. The country is setting aside $200 million this year from mining taxes to invest in high technology; the figure is likely to grow to $350 next year, officials said.
Several U.S.- and Europe-based companies have located service operations in Chile's major cities primarily to serve Latin American customers. These include Delta Air Lines and Air France reservations operations as well as customer service units run by Citigroup, JPMorgan, Unilever and Zurich Financial Services.
It is always heartening to find that someone is exploiting an exhaustible natural resource like copper and then reinvesting part of the proceeds into developing other industries that more sustainable.
NAACP: Tenn. Senate ad plays to racism
The direct link between two stories about Harold Ford is remarkable. The first story describes a Republican ad that criticizes Ford. Link: NAACP: Tenn. Senate ad plays to racism - Yahoo! News.
A political TV ad targeting a black candidate for Senate contains what critics, including the NAACP, are calling racist sexual innuendo about a black man and white woman.
The Republican National Committee ad began airing Friday and features a series of characters facetiously declaring their support for Democrat Harold Ford Jr., a Memphis congressman who faces Republican Bob Corker, who is white, in the Nov. 7 election. Polls have shown the two locked in a tight race.
In the ad, a blond white woman brags, "I met Harold at the Playboy party." At the end she looks into the camera, holds her hand like a telephone and says, "Harold, call me," before winking.
..."It is a powerful innuendo that plays to pre-existing prejudices about African-American men and white women," Hilary Shelton, head of the Washington NAACP office, told the Los Angeles Times.
... Former Clinton Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, also a former Republican senator from Maine, said on CNN that the ad was "a very serious appeal to a racist sentiment."
The second story coincidentally suggests that the Republican ad hits the precise concern of some folks in Tennessee:
A Contentious Campaign in a Battleground State By Shailagh Murray Wednesday, October 25, 2006; Page A01
COALMONT, Tenn. -- John Layne is a 57-year-old white Republican with a long gray beard, no job and advancing emphysema. He arrived an hour early to hear Harold Ford Jr. speak in this struggling mountain town.
"Oh, sure, there's some prejudice," Layne said as he contemplated casting a ballot for a black man. "I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one." But he's more concerned about rising medical costs: When it comes to voting, "you gotta look at the person, not the color."
Please, Why Can't We Have Better Electronic Voting Machines?
U.S. Senate candidate James Webb's last name has been cut off on part of the electronic ballot used by voters in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville because of a computer glitch that also affects other candidates with long names, city officials said yesterday.
Although the problem creates some voter confusion, it will not cause votes to be cast incorrectly, election officials emphasized. The error shows up only on the summary page, where voters are asked to review their selections before hitting the button to cast their votes. Webb's full name appears on the page where voters choose for whom to vote.
Election officials attribute the mistake to an increase in the type size on the ballot. Although the larger type is easier to read, it also unintentionally shortens the longer names on the summary page of the ballot.
Thus, Democratic candidate Webb will appear with his first name and nickname only -- or "James H. 'Jim' " -- on summary pages in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville, the only jurisdictions in Virginia that use balloting machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic of Austin.
...Every candidate on Alexandria's summary page has been affected in some way by the glitch. Even if candidates' full names appear, as is the case with Webb's Republican opponent, incumbent Sen. George F. Allen, their party affiliations have been cut off.
Jean Jensen, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, who said yesterday she only recently became aware of the problem, pledged to have it fixed by the 2007 statewide elections.
...Election officials in Alexandria said they have been vexed by the problem since they purchased the voting machines in 2003. Although the problem has raised eyebrows among confused voters, elections officials said they are confident that the trouble has not led voters to cast ballots incorrectly.
...James T. "Jim" Hurysz, an independent candidate who's running to unseat incumbent Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), sees it somewhat differently. His name has been shortened on the summary page to "James T. 'Jim.' " [This means that there are two James 'Jim''s in the election, one running for the House, and the other for the Senate.]
...Jensen said Hart InterCivic has created an upgrade for their firmware and recently applied for state certification to apply the fix. That process, she said, can be time-consuming because of security measures in place .
Hart InterCivic officials yesterday said they hoped to correct the problem by next fall.
"The newer voting systems will not be certified and installed before the Nov. 7 election," said company Vice President Phillip Braithwaite. Hart InterCivic "does intend to install the newer system version before the next major election in 2007, assuming certification from the commonwealth."
Given the continuing inability of proprietary software vendors to get it right, open source electronic voting systems look ever more appealing. Either that, or we need better election officials--note that they've been aware of this problem since 2003!
Vivendi Sues Deutsche Telekom in U.S. over Polish Telecom Company
Vivendi files suit in federal court in Seattle against the German telecom giant with respect to a Polish wireless telecom company. Vivendi claims that the Deutsche Telekom harms its American customers who place calls to Poland. And Vivendi claims that DT used the U.S. wires to further its fraud.
Complaint helpfully posted here by the Wall Street Journal (in a publicly-accessible area, I believe).